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How Leaders are held Accountable

How Leaders are held Accountable

author: Lee Buttolph

I had many amazing Commanding Officers (CO) during my time in the Marine Corps but one stands out for a trick he used to keep himself (and his unit) focused.  He wrote guiding principle documents that layed out everything he wanted his unit to accomplish during a set period of time.

The document had a secondary effect... it held him accountable to those objectives.

During our time in Iraq he sat down his Officers and went through what he wanted to accomplish over our last seven months in country.  About two months later he sat down with a Platoon Commander and let him know he would like to set up a field mess night.

The Lieutenant sat back and asked the question of the CO "Sir, you talked to us two months ago and gave us a document laying out your objectives for the next seven months and a mess night wasn't on it.  I am of course willing to do it but have your priorities changed?  A mess night is a lot of work and it will take time away from the other priorities you layed out for us."

The CO looked at the Lieutenant and responded "You're right.  My priorities have not changed and I don't want anything to distract from them.  The mess night is off."

It is very hard to hold leaders accountable.  But if leaders are bold enough to write down their priorities and to stand by them it offers their subordinates the opportunity to hold them accountable when they deviate from the plan without reorganizing the priorities.